In January 2015, Tongass National Forest Hydrologists Marty Becker and KK Prussian discovered an oddly weathered stone while collecting, sampling, and identifying rock samples in the Starrigavin slide area.
“I thought it was just a cool weathered rock and held it in my hand and started walking back down to KK,” said Becker. As I was walking, it suddenly hit me this thing is really comfortable and took a closer look at it, realized what I thought it was, showed it to KK and got the same assumption from her.”
What Becker and Prussian had found was confirmed by Forest Service Archaeologist Jay Kinsman as a prehistoric stone tool more succinctly a T-shaped hand maul. This type of stone tool is common in Northwest Coast Native Cultures extending from the Columbia River to Yakutat. A tool of this type is akin to a prehistoric hammer or sledge hammer. This tool would have likely been used for driving wedges made of a softer material such as wood, antler, or sea-mammal along a cedar log to split off planks.
It is likely that the former owner of this maul was utilizing cedar for one of the many resources derived from it (planks) on the slopes above Starrigavin creek. The owner would have likely cached the maul and wedges for future use rather than haul them back and forth with load of cedar planks.
The artifact will become part of the permanent artifact collection of the Tongass National Forest. The Museum of the North is the curation facility that the Alaska Region uses to permanently curate collections.
The September 2014 landslides affected approximately 75 to 100 acres in Starrigavan Valley, about 10 miles from Sitka.